The current state of micro and small enterprises in Horticulture in Kenya
Horticulture is a key sector in Kenya’s economy, contributing a third of agricultural output. Exports of fruits and vegetables make up a significant portion of this. Most horticultural producers in Kenya are micro-, small-, and medium-sized enterprises (MSEs), which employ almost seven million people and account for 80% of domestic food production. MSEs in horticulture play a crucial role in making Kenyan food systems more nutritious and safer by increasing the availability, accessibility, and affordability of safe and nutritious foods. They can also help reduce the risk of unsafe food and unhealthy diets attributed to increased consumption of ultra-processed foods. Such changes have negatively affected the country’s nutritional security, with a quarter of the adult population being overweight, three million of whom are clinically obese.
MSE operations in Kenya are usually informal and unorganized. This makes it difficult for farmers to invest in horticulture as they lack the financial capital, knowledge, and skills to increase productivity and supply quality products. Farmers often sell their products through informal channels because they have limited direct access to markets and face competition from the larger horticulture industry. The lack of affordable cold chain infrastructure also poses a challenge. Smallholders typically lack financial and institutional support, which hinders their growth. To minimize loss and waste, MSEs would benefit from chain-wide coordination. Additionally, limited knowledge of regulations and standards raises concerns about food safety. Food safety scandals have highlighted the need for control in value chains, which penalizes MSEs that cannot deliver consistent quantity and quality to supermarkets.
Is there hope?
Kenyan horticultural development is a priority for the government, with policies such as the Agricultural Sector Development Strategy 2010–2020 and Vision 2030 aimed at transforming the sector into a more commercially oriented and inclusive one. However, informal markets can be overlooked by the government, making it important for future stakeholders to collaborate and invest in MSEs across fruit and vegetable value chains. This inclusive approach can drive the food systems transition, improve nutrition, empower women and young people through employment and income generation, and contribute to the Kenya Nutrition Action Plan goal of optimal nutrition for all and the country’s socio-economic growth.
Fellows of the African Food Fellowship in Kenya are working together to address governance and structural issues in the horticulture sector. They aim to improve the performance of the sector and help MSEs operating outside current regulatory frameworks to provide quality products to traders and formal markets. They are also focused on building a resilient sector that includes MSEs. Here is what they have to say:
I have been involved in reviewing the agriculture and veterinary school curriculum. I used this opportunity to highlight the insights gained from this fellowship and to influence decisions so that the food system understanding becomes embedded in the learning institutions.MSE Fellow, Kenya Cohort 2021
Do you have solutions to support MSEs and untap their potential for feeding a healthier population? Apply to participate in the African Food Fellowship.
The African Food Fellowship unites Kenyan aquaculture professionals to drive reforms at county and national levels, promoting an inclusive and sustainable sector.
The African Food Fellowship seeks to eliminate barriers in agri-businesses' finance access and promote an innovative financial ecosystem. This will enhance Kenya's agricultural sector's fairness and competitiveness.
The Africa Food Fellowship seeks driven leaders in Kenya to strategize, mobilize, and support horticultural micro and small enterprises. The goal is to boost the availability of sustainable and healthy foods in the country.